BELLS BEACH, Torquay, Victoria / Australia (Friday, September 1, 2023) – The Round of 16 for both Men’s and Women’s divisions was completed today in windswept four-to-six-foot swell at the Bioglan Bells Beach Longboard Classic Presented by Rip Curl. The international field of World Surf League (WSL) Longboard Tour (LT) competitors proved why they are the best in the world, making impressive work of the less-than-ideal conditions.
On paper the draw appeared to include multiple evenly matched pairings, a feature that played out in reality, with many close battles providing exciting moments and thrilling victories. Each of the surfers are aware of the necessity of making Finals Day to keep in the top 8 and have a chance at winning the World Title at the Malibu Longboard Championships, making advancement in the Round of 16 crucial.
A surfer who never needs to worry about advancing to Finals Day is Honolua Blomfield (HAW), who has made at least Quarterfinals in every event since joining the LT, other than her first appearance in 2015. The three-time World Champion got straight to work in her matchup against Maya Glasenapp (FRA) and easily maintained the lead throughout.
A far more critical scenario played out in Heat 4, where Rachael Tilly (USA) and Avalon Gall (USA) went blow-for-blow, the Oceanside Longboard Surfing Club teammates pushing each other to deliver some of the highest scores of the round. The turning point in the heat came when Gall picked up a wave under Tilly’s priority and collected a 7.33 (out of a possible 10). With a backup of a 6.17, Gall was able to narrowly claim victory over the 2015 World Longboard Champion.
Natsumi Taoka (JPN) carried her form from day one straight into her match against rankings leader Kelis Kaleopa’a (HAW) to take the win and shake up the women’s field.
“I’m so happy to get the win,” Taoka said. “I’m so nervous before the heat, but I talked by myself and calm down and just do what I want to do. I missed a couple of big sets, but I can wait for the good ones, so I’m so stoked.”
Mason Schremmer (USA) was able to enter her matchup with Zoe Grospiron (FRA) with quite the opposite approach, keeping her feelings composed during a close heat that went her way.
“I felt really calm going into it,” Schremmer said. “I felt like I had a good idea of what I was going to do, which is just helpful to have, a settled mind, so that was really good. Zoe’s such a great surfer as well, she’s really hard to beat, so I’m glad to have gotten that one. My goal was to make finals day and hopefully go further than the equal 5th but I feel like I can just let go a bit and relax going into tomorrow, I’m excited.”
Chloe Calmon (BRA) was awarded the best numbers of the women’s division in the final heat of the day against Kaitlin Mikkelsen (USA). Earning a 7.50 (out of a possible 10) for three nose-rides across a huge outside section on a well-overhead wave, which was completed with style far down the beach, the Brazilian backed it up with a 6.17 and found the highest heat total, 13.67 (out of a possible 20).
The two biggest upsets of the men’s draw now belong to Landen Smales (AUS). The 16-year-old wildcard sent current world number three Tony Silvagni (USA) to the Elimination Round on day one and today delivered a shocking upset by defeating LT rankings leader Kaniela Stewart (HAW) in Heat 5 of the men’s Round of 16.
Stewart took the lead early and held control for much of the heat, but a 6.00 (out of a possible 10) ride from Smales was the high mark of the match and the final third of the 30-minute heat belonged to the young Queenslander. The 2023 Open and U/18 Australian National Logger Champion is most certainly understated, but you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face after the dramatic victory.
“I’m so stoked to beat the current number one and surf good Bells,” Smales said. “It was kind of tricky out there but I got it done. I guess I was just trying to show the world what I can do and prove everyone wrong.”
One of the tightest battles of the men’s division belonged to Edouard Delpero (FRA) and Rogelio Jr Esquievel (PHI), who traded 7-point rides and the lead. Delpero focused on long, early nose-rides, including utilising cheater-5’s to hold onto the nose as long as possible, while Esquievel relied on his tight footwork through the middle section of the Bells Bowl, combined with shorter nose rides and strong finishes.
Delpero was happy to walk away victorious and collect the highest heat total of the day along the way, 14.70 (out of a possible 20). The 2017 World Title runner-up is thankful to even be here after being sidelined for part of the 2022 season.
“I’m just trying to rebuild my surfing into contests because I had a super hard year in 2022 with a big injury and heavy things to manage besides surfing, so just trying to gain back my confidence,” Delpero said. “There is such a high level on this tour right now that you never know which heat can go you way or not and this one went my way. But that was a heavy one against JR (Esquievel).”
Round of 16 exits at the Huntington Beach Longboard Classic for both Kai Sallas (HAW) and Ben Skinner (GBR) left the LT stalwarts needing a result at Bells Beach to maintain their prospects of attending Malibu.
Sallas was gifted a rematch with Richie Cravey (USA), who deprived him of a position in Finals Day at Huntington Beach. Today however, the Hawaiian got the better of the Californian, the large open faces of the Bells Bowl playing right into the wheelhouse of the surfer from Oahu, who is no stranger to the heavy lineups of the North Shore.
“I felt like it was a super-close heat and I maybe could have jumped on some better waves in Huntington,” Sallas said. “Any time you get a chance to get a rematch you try to learn from the mistakes you made. I think in Huntington I didn’t really wait for the better waves and in this heat I was trying to catch the good ones and I felt like I did that.”
In the final heat of the round Skinner matched fellow veteran Cole Robbins (USA) for the first time since 2014. In yet another close heat, Robbins and Skinner traded the lead, with Skinner waiting on the sand to hear the score that guaranteed his progression.
“It felt good, it was a really tricky heat,” Skinner said. “It’s actually pretty hard work out there. It’s cleaned up a lot, the faces are nice and clean. Just got to be patient, try to pick the bigger ones that peel and sort of make that connection, but pretty stoked to make it.”
For more of today’s highlights, results and information from the Bioglan Bells Beach Longboard Classic, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.
The next call for competition will be tomorrow, Saturday, September 2, at 7:15am AEST for a potential 7:35am start.
Bioglan Bells Beach Longboard Classic Presented by Rip Curl Men’s Round of 16 Results:
HEAT 1: Taylor Jensen (USA) 14.33 DEF. Kai Ellice-Flint (AUS) 4.23
HEAT 2: Taka Inoue (JPN) 10.50 DEF. Kevin Skvarna (USA) 9.04
HEAT 3: Tony Silvagni (USA) 12.16 DEF. Kaimana Takayama (USA) 9.76
HEAT 4: Kai Sallas (HAW) 12.84 DEF. Richie Cravey (USA) 9.27
HEAT 5: Landen Smales (AUS) 12.03 DEF. Kaniela Stewart (HAW) 10.43
HEAT 6: Edouard Delpero (FRA) 14.70 DEF. Rogelio Jr Esquievel (PHL) 14.17
HEAT 7: Declan Wyton (AUS) 14.10 DEF. Steven Sawyer (RSA) 10.87
HEAT 8: Ben Skinner (GBR) 14.13 DEF. Cole Robbins (USA) 11.27
Bioglan Bells Beach Longboard Classic Presented by Rip Curl Women’s Round of 16 Results:
HEAT 1: Honolua Blomfield (HAW) 13.17 DEF. Maya Glasenapp (REU) 6.16
HEAT 2: Mason Schremmer (USA) 10.20 DEF. Zoe Grospiron (FRA) 8.97
HEAT 3: Soleil Errico (USA) DEF. Keani Canullo (HAW)
HEAT 4: Avalon Gall (USA) 13.50 DEF. Rachael Tilly (USA) 13.27
HEAT 5: Natsumi Taoka (JPN) 10.77 DEF. Kelis Kaleopaa (HAW) 10.17
HEAT 6: Alice Lemoigne (FRA) 9.04 DEF. Tully White (AUS) 8.50
HEAT 7: Sophia Culhane (HAW) 11.44 DEF. Kirra Molnar (AUS) 10.04
HEAT 8: Chloe Calmon (BRA) 13.67 DEF. Kaitlin Mikkelsen (USA) 9.60
Bioglan Bells Beach Longboard Classic Presented by Rip Curl Men’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Taylor Jensen (USA) vs. Taka Inoue (JPN)
HEAT 2: Tony Silvagni (USA) vs. Kai Sallas (HAW)
HEAT 3: Landen Smales (AUS) vs. Edouard Delpero (FRA)
HEAT 4: Declan Wyton (AUS) vs. Ben Skinner (GBR)
Bioglan Bells Beach Longboard Classic Presented by Rip Curl Women’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Honolua Blomfield (HAW) vs. Mason Schremmer (USA)
HEAT 2: Soleil Errico (USA) vs. Avalon Gall (USA)
HEAT 3: Natsumi Taoka (JPN) vs. Alice Lemoigne (FRA)
HEAT 4: Sophia Culhane (HAW) vs. Chloe Calmon (BRA)
Watch LIVE: Bioglan Bells Beach Longboard Classic Presented by Rip Curl
The Bioglan Bells Beach Longboard Classic holds a competition window from Wednesday, August 30, through Saturday, September 2, 2023. Once called on, the competition will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL’s YouTube channel, and the free WSL app.
The 2023 Bioglan Bells Beach Longboard Classic presented by Rip Curl is proudly supported by Bioglan, Visit Victoria, Surf Coast Shire, GWM, and Rip Curl.
For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.